The Roar
The Roar


Will Billy Slater ever catch try-scoring machine Ken Irvine?

Billy Slater of the Maroons tries to make a break. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
30th June, 2017
1961 Reads

The short answer would have been yes, had Billy Slater had played more than just eight games for the Melbourne Storm in two years thanks to shoulder injuries.

Slater has just turned 34, and last night he crossed for his 178th NRL try to be 36 shy of the greatest winger I’ve ever seen in both rugby codes.

Irvine’s 212 tries has been the record for 44 years, since the express-man hung up his boots in 1973.

His try-scoring feats were phenomenal.

He first played for the North Sydney Bears in a side that found a new way to lose practically every week.

Yet winger Irvine scored 171 tries from 176 games with the Bears. When he hardly ever saw the ball in regular play, he had to go hunting for it.

His move to Manly created a right royal stink at the time, but the crack wing man desperately wanted to win a premiership he was never going to win at Norths.

The move was a masterstroke. He achieved his passion and scored 41 tries from 60 games.


That have him his record 212 from just 236 games, plus 30 tries from 24 games for NSW, and 33 tries from 31 caps for the Kangaroos.

By any standards, an extraordinary strike rate.

The NRL’s most prolific try scoring forward Steve Menzies currently lies second on 180 from 280 games for Manly, and 60 games for the stupid amalgamation of Manly and the Bears, the ridiculously named Northern Eagles.

The closest forward to Menzies’ 180 tries is Frank Burge who played for Glebe and St George between 1911 and 1927 with 146 which sees him at 13th on the all-time try scoring list.

Slater is third with his 178, so he’ll pass ‘Beaver’ Menzies this season, and set sail for Kenny Irvine.

That makes Slater 36 adrift as it sits, so the Stormer will have to play at least two more seasons to catch the champion.

Marika Koroibete and Billy Slater

(AAP image/David Crosling)


It will be difficult to say the least, but Slater is such a superb competitor, you wouldn’t want to back against him.

But the talented trio have so much in common – speed, safe hands, and the incredible ability to read a game in advance – they were, or are, invariably in the right place at the right time.

Menzies was different speedwise. His loping stride never gave the impression he was quick, until you looked at who was chasing him, and Menzies was drawing away.

Of the three, Irvine was the quickest, He ran 9.3 secs for the 100 yards to equal the world professional record, and once ran 6.1 secs for 60 yards, which was flying.

When Usain Bolt set his world record 9.58 secs over 100 metres in 2009, he passed the 60-yard mark at 5.87 secs.

The only other NRL winger in the Ken Irvine speed category was Mike Cleary who stopped the clock at 9.4 secs for 100 yards on the way to winning bronze at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth.

I’ll leave the final salute to the feats of Ken Irvine.


He was named in the Bears’ Team of the Century, and Manly’s 60th year anniversary Dream Team.

He was also named in the NSW and Australian Teams of the Century, and inducted into the Hall of Fame.

But he’s yet to be an Immortal, a spot he deserved in the first intake in 1981 with Clive Churchill, Bobby Fulton, Reg Gasnier, and Johnny Raper.

And he still hasn’t been inducted 36 years later.

It is one of the most disgraceful decisions in rugby league’s long and colourful history.

Fix it, Commission.